Football Association appoints Independent legal counsel to review child abuse

Football Association appoints Independent legal counsel to review child abuse

The Football Association has appointed an independent legal counsel, Kate Gallafent QC, to assist its review into historical child abuse allegations.

Gallafent will oversee the association's internal review into claims of sexual abuse made by a growing number of former youth footballers.

The FA suggested a fully-fledged inquiry may follow but the initial review would explore "what information the FA was aware of at the relevant times around the issues that have been raised in the press, what clubs were aware of, and what action was or should have been taken."

Football Association appoints Independent legal counsel to review child abuse

Gallafent will then provide recommendations "to ensure these situations can never be repeated".

The FA's move came as Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Players' Association, revealed the number of players making allegations of abuse is now more than 20.

Taylor, speaking to Radio Five Live's Sportsweek, said up to seven clubs were connected to those allegations and he only expected the issue to widen in scale.

"From that time, of those who became apprentices and senior players, over 20 players have come forward," said Taylor.

Asked to name the clubs that had been connected to allegations thus far, Taylor said: "We'd start at Crewe, go to Man City, Stoke, Blackpool, Newcastle, Leeds...I'm expecting there will be more. I think we have six or seven clubs.

"I can't believe it's just going to be in the north west and north east. We need to be mindful this could be throughout the country in the same way it's been in other professions where children are there - in the church, in schools."

Press Association Sport has contacted Leeds and Blackpool, clubs who had not previously been linked with the current raft of allegations, for comment.

Barry Bennell, the former youth coach and convicted paedophile who has been named by players including Andy Woodward, Steve Walters, David White and Ian Ackley, worked with Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior clubs in the north-west.

Football Association appoints Independent legal counsel to review child abuse

The Metropolitan Police, Hampshire Police and Cheshire police have said they are investigating allegations of abuse in the football community.

Northumbria Police said it was investigating an allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle player that he was abused in the club's youth system.

The Guardian said an unnamed former Newcastle player had contacted police to make allegations against George Ormond, a coach in the north east who was jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults across a 24-year period.

Newcastle said they would co-operate with authorities ''if or when the club receives further information''.

Taylor suggested that some of the mental health issues his organisation have been attempting to counter in recent times could be tied to abuse but also spoke of his confidence that the youngsters were better protected now than in the past.

"We've had issues of depression and, of course, issues that caused suicides...some of what might be coming out might help explain that as well," he said.

"I wouldn't preclude the fact it could happen (these days) because you can't have enough vigilance when paedophiles are so determined.

"But we have the PFA safety net, an online platform available to parents and youngsters informing them of danger situations. There's a lot more knowledge available about what needs to be done and checks on staff at clubs."

Taylor also responded to newspaper allegations that an unidentified Premier League club had paid off a player to prevent them going public with their story within the past two years.

"If clubs have paid off such youngsters and not done anything about the situation I think that's a terrible lack of duty of care because they have an obligation to bring it out," he said.

"That's the only way we can grasp the nettle on this and try to set an example to the rest of society."

As well as investigating events of the past the FA has resolved to make sure its current protocols pass muster.

It said in a statement: "The Child Protection in Sport Unit, which has assisted The FA in relation to its safeguarding procedures since 2000, will also be carrying out an independent audit into The FA's current practices to ensure that all practices are at the highest standard.

"This audit, which is part of the CPSU's regular review of The FA's safeguarding work, is due to take place at the beginning of 2017. The audit will not consider the historic allegations but will complement and inform The FA's response to the review."

On Sunday Anthony Hughes, who represented England at the 1993 World Youth Championships, became the latest player to waive anonymity and make allegations against Bennell.

He was inspired to do so by former Crewe team-mate Woodward.

"As adults we now understand what was going on was just so terribly wrong. I cannot praise Woody enough for his bravery in speaking out," he told the Sunday Mirror.

"It's always been there niggling away. Looking back I feel angry. It is sickening how he behaved. You wouldn't be allowed to do that these days, one coach taking all those young lads back to his house."


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